FFA Cup a bridge between past and present

NPL sides could potentially face A-League powerhouses Brisbane and Western Sydney in the FFA Cup.
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How about this for a happy coincidence? The latest incarnation of Sydney City (now in State League Division 1 in NSW) will be playing in the Westfield FFA Cup round of 32 against Palm Beach Sharks from the Gold Coast.

Sydney City is coached by Mark Robertson, son of Alex Robertson who played for Sydney City back in 1986 with me when we won the national cup competition. And on top of that, two of my sons, Nathan and Justin, currently play for City.

And just to make this fixture even more special for me at least, Kristian Rees - who I coached at Adelaide United in the inaugural Hyundai A-League season - plays for the Sharks.

This type of synergy is the beauty of Cup competitions around the world and finally we have the same here.

What we are now witnessing is the birth of a new tradition in the form of the FFA Westfield Cup and, like the National Premier Leagues (NPL) should be embraced by all clubs and member Federations and given due respect and consideration.

Why? Because it creates the legacy the game needs for future growth.

Not that a national cup is new.

As I said, I’m also a former Sydney City player and I remember in 1986 beating West Adelaide in what was then called the NSL Cup Final. Even further back I have vague recollections of travelling to Perth to play for West Adelaide against a local State League side called Spearwood Dalmatinac in a national cup competition.

There was a ‘Phillips Cup’ back in the early days of the NSL – I’m talking about the 70s here and I know I coached the Warringah Dolphins (now Manly) from the NSW Premier League against Marconi Stallions, then of NSL fame, in a Cup competition of sorts in the mid-90s involving National League and State League sides.

So has history repeated itself with the recent launch of the Westfield FFA Cup?

In a fashion, yes, but the end result won’t be repeated because the competition won’t go belly up as it has done so each time in the past. Why? Because now it is being run properly.

It has been recognised as an important part of the evolution of the growth of the game here. Unlike their predecessors the current administration has recognised that there needs to be a link between grass roots local football and the ‘elite’ of the A-League. And what better way to forge that link than a knock-out Cup competition where your classic “David and Goliath” scenario can be enacted.

I have always felt a cup competition is an important facet of the culture of the game. It is everywhere else in the world but we have never been able to get it right here. Admittedly the resources required for this have been scant at best during previous administrations but they also lacked the necessary wherewithal and acumen to do it anyway.

It was always easier to pay it lip service and start something that could never be finished knowing that it was all too hard to get it right and would be shelved when the powerful clubs complained; which was pretty much how the whole game was run then.

It’s now a case of “old soccer versus new football”!

The FFA is investing in the Westfield FFA Cup because they understand the importance of its very existence. And it’s only fitting that Westfield are naming rights sponsors (coincidentally it was Westfield boss and FFA Chairman Frank Lowy who was running Sydney City when that club won the national cup competition 26 years ago).

The logistics of the competition puts interstate NPL and lower grade clubs against each other in mid-week games. So your local tradie or lawyer or school teacher that would invariably go to training on a Tuesday night might now be jumping on a plane to have a crack at contemporaries interstate and getting a taste of what the ‘big-time’ is like.

And who knows if they’re good enough, down the track they might even get a crack at a Hyundai A-League team in the FFA Cup.

How good is that?

For the full Westfield FFA Cup draw with times and dates,  tap here .

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